Disposable Things

by | Feb 4, 2021 | Poetry

This poem is autobiographical. My uncle, Roosevelt Green, aka, Ninny was a slender, handsome man. Born sixth of eleven children, he most physically resembled my grandfather. After losing my grandfather, Uncle Roosevelt lived in my parents’ home. He was more a big brother, than uncle in truth. The poem is from the vantage point of a child in hindsight really. I wonder how much farther we would be as a nation if revisited the sites of our pain and worked them out. We would likely found peace in the struggling.

My uncle was a garbage man.
He filled his sacks full of good things
Mostly what white folks threw away
And he’d bring them home.

I received tin plates and cups
For my dolly and loved to serve
her chocolate mud-pies and
delicate honeyed blossoms
upon my make-believe fine china.

My uncle was a garbage collector…
Taking away unneeded and unwanted things.
Sometimes giving them new life
by gifting them to me.

My uncle was a garbage collector
Taking away unneeded and unwanted things,
But when he was taken away,
He took my heart with him.

I see him sometimes
A top the metal mouth
Riding high
waving his cap in the air
To me.
“Oh, Uncle will you bring good things today?
What treasures will you save from the dump heap?”

Outside on the street,
I wait for Uncle to come,
but he has vanished.
His place empty atop
the metal

I ask Mother,
“Where has Uncle gone?”
Mother says,
“They’ve come and got him.”
Somebody lied
And so now
He’ll go into the army
to fight the white man’s war
To escape the white people
With the tin plates.

Run, Run, Uncle Run
Quick as ice down
a hot throat
Run Uncle for your life.

Leave the tin plates.
Leave the tin lies.
Leave this tin town.

But don’t forget me, Uncle
While I make
mud-pies atop
Their plate of lies.